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Staff Photo by Matt Hamilton / Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly shakes hands with police chief nominee Celeste Murphy at city hall in Chattanooga on Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2022.

Daffodils are such brave and encouraging flowers. Each winter, I see their green stalks emerging out of the still-cold ground, usually after some premature warm spell, and I think: You're too early. Return to cover. You've been duped.

Each winter, I'm wrong.

The green shoots endure the vacillating days, ever upward, towards the sun. It is astonishing and humbling to me, the knowledge and strength of the daffodil, the way it knows and senses the path out of the darkness and towards the warmth and light.

Perhaps we, as humans, do, as well.

As daffodils began to bloom across Hamilton County this week, Russia went to war.

Once more, this planet must endure the shockwaves of a man consumed by greed and delusion. Jesus said the poor will always be with us. Perhaps it's because men like Putin will always be with us.

How unspeakably vulnerable we all are.

And unspeakably resilient.

Do we not also possess a similar inner knowing? A sense of path upward despite the darkness?

These are stressful times on top of stressful times. All week, I found myself searching websites, new stories, headlines, commentary. For what? Some nugget of calm? Of reassurance?

Doing so only made things worse, which was a lesson I learned during COVID-19: the less news, the better.

(Other COVID-19 lessons: Trust more. Allow others to be themselves. My mind can cause as much trouble as the virus.)

After all, as the daffodils bloom, as Ukrainians lose their country, what can I say here that has not already been said?

Love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you.

Do not lie, cheat or steal.

Violence added to violence only leads to more violence.

Pay attention to the flowers in the field.

Do not be conformed to this world but to the renewal of your mind.

Not long ago, I planted seeds — broccoli, kale, a new kind of lettuce called pirat — in tiny plots under a grow lamp.

As Russian tanks rolled into Ukraine, the first sprouts appeared.

They are so vulnerable, as thin as the letters in this word.

Yet, if we look deeply, we can already see: full and ample heads of broccoli, sweet lettuce leaves, a bright May sun.

If we keep looking, we can see the end of Russia's invasion, the end of Putin's rule, even the end of whatever conflict and turmoil we face in our own lives.

Some day, those moments will arrive.

But not yet.

The New York Times released a video showing ordinary Ukrainian citizens — an actor, a computer programmer, a business manager — preparing for street warfare. As the Russian behemoth slouches towards Kyiv, regular people are becoming soldiers.

"When I heard the explosions, I decided that I am ready," said one woman. "I am adult woman, I am healthy and it's my responsibility."

"I don't really have any choice," said one man. "This is my home."

Could you imagine?

We are always planting the seeds of tomorrow today.

All this may seem airy and light to you, even silly, but after a decade of writing columns, I am left wondering: What else is there to say?

Throughout history, tanks have always invaded.

And daffodils have always bloomed.

Am I at war with someone? Am I cultivating a tyrant's heart or mind?

Am I planting seeds that will grow into something wholesome and promising?

Can I listen for the path upwards, towards the sun, out of the cold ground?

***

Welcome to Chattanooga, Celeste Murphy. I hear you're remarkable.

"There are smart people," one officer told me, "and then there are really, really smart people. She's one of the really, really smart people."

This officer spoke glowingly about Murphy. A leader who's also a cop's cop, she also loves, supports, understands and stands with the communities she serves. Wise, effective and professional, she's risen through the ranks of Atlanta policing as a Black woman and now, we have the good fortune of her historic leadership here.

But let's not forget two remarkable local candidates.

Capt. Jerri Sutton.

Assistant Chief Glenn Scruggs.

Both applied for the position after serving this city for decades. I have long admired Scruggs as a kind and wise officer, political candidate and father. And Sutton? An old friend, she means the world to me, personally changing the way I see policing, teaching me — through her faithfulness, resolve and immovable strength — more than she will ever know. Both officers remind me, a civilian, of what I too often forget: Each day, they go to work, willing to lay down their lives for the people they serve.

Chief Murphy, you have good folks here.

David Cook writes a Sunday column and can be reached at dcook@timesfreepress.com.

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